So, what is Church then?

So, what is Church then?

Just 1 week ago, people were still gathering inside church buildings on Sundays for group worship, week day mornings for prayer and toddler groups and evenings throughout the week for youth groups. Today, church buildings across the UK are closed in an attempt to contain the current strain of coronavirus, Covid-19, and keep as many people as possible, safe and well.

I spend a lot of my time on social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook, where for the last year I have been gathering Christians to pray, study, worship and ‘do life’ together. When I was first told about the online church, and how it could be an area of ministry suited to my abilities, like many others I know, I laughed. Online church was fine, but it’s not ‘real’ church. Is it? I decided to look into it a bit further and realised that as the people are the Church, anywhere that people gather to worship God together, seek His guidance, study His word and help others to be pointed to God can be church. Therefore, online church is just as real and important as traditional church.

This is particularly true for those of us who would not be able to attend a physical church or who do not feel welcome in our local churches due to theologies and opinions surrounding disability, long term illness and healing (or lack thereof).

In Ephesians 2:20-22 we are told that we are ‘built together to be a dwelling place for God by the Spirit’. In the early church, there were no buildings. Messages, prayers and worship were shared in homes or out in the public areas of towns and villages and the Church grew rapidly in number and faithfulness.

We all have different abilities and gifts (1 Corinthians 12:5) but sometimes the traditional church format doesn’t enable all of us to use them due to theological, traditional or other restrictions. Church should not be one person telling everyone else what to do an the congregation sitting back and listening, seeking entertainment and then carrying on with their day. Church is a group of people who come together, each with their own skills, talents, gifts, abilities and personalities, to build a community of believers and non-believers who seek to be in the presence of God and one another.

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us to ‘consider how to stir up one another to love and do good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing nearer.’ Our understanding of ‘meet together’ has been made to be physically together but this does not have to be the case. Meeting together is good for us, we are not meant to be alone, but today, we can be physically alone yet be deeply connected to so many others around the world.

We are so privileged that we have computers, phones, tablets, internet and other devices and technology that enable us to be together alone. I am fairly sure that if Paul and the early church had these facilities they would have used them because they did whatever they could to reach as many people as possible, even risking their own lives to spread the good news!

To summarise, Church is not a Sunday morning service, it is not the activities or events we plan and hold, inside or outside of a church building, it is not the traditions or the liturgy or even our theologies. Church is simply God’s people, gathered together, physically or otherwise, to recognise Him by worshipping Him, praying to Him, taking care of each other, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, and sharing about who God is and what He has done, and continues to do for us. Whether it is your preference or not, online church is included in the list of possibilities that can make this happen and should be given recognition for the key role it plays in the wider Church – not just now whilst many are in isolation, but in the coming months and years when there are still people unable to attend a physical church or who choose to attend church online.

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